Trump pulls out of second presidential debate after organizers said it would be held virtually

The second debate between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will be held virtually, the Commission for Presidential Debates announced on Thursday.

The commission said the two candidates will participate in the town hall debate, scheduled for Oct. 15, “from separate remote locations.” The announcement was made after Mr. Trump and a growing number of White House staffers tested positive for coronavirus following the first presidential debate last week.

Mr. Trump said Thursday morning that he wouldn’t participate. “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” he said on Fox Business.

The Biden campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The debate commission said that while both candidates would appear virtually, the campaign moderator C-Span Network’s Steve Scully and town hall participants will be located in Miami, Fla.

The news comes the morning after the vice presidential debate, which took place in person with added protections, such as plexiglass barriers between the candidates. Both Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) have so far tested negative for the virus.

Wednesday’s debate was the first such event to take place since the president tested positive for the coronavirus. The vice presidential debate will be remembered more for the questions that went unanswered during their 90 minutes on stage in Salt Lake City, Utah, rather than any standout lines or remarkable ripostes from either candidate. Mr. Pence, Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden are set to make a swing through the West on Thursday. However, the president will remain in Washington as he recovers from Covid-19.

Strategists and analysts said the evening would probably do little to change the state of the race, which in recent days has centered on the administration’s handling of the pandemic. The most memorable moment, several pundits said, was when a fly landed on Mr. Pence’s head and remained stuck in place for more than two minutes.

“This debate did nothing to alter the trajectory of the race; it was more of a talking point exchange than a debate,” said David Wasserman, a political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “The most off-script moment was an insect landing on Pence’s head and that tells you all you need to know.”

Mr. Wasserman said the status quo benefits former Vice President Joe Biden and Ms. Harris who are leading national and battleground state polls by wide margins. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll Sunday had Mr. Biden ahead of the president by 14 percentage points nationally, 53%-39%, as the president’s support from older and white working-class voters softened.